Apple Goes Intel – My Thoughts

On June 6th Steve Jobs announced that Apple would be moving from Power PC chips to Intel chips. Since then I’ve been following the chatter over the boards.

I have a few thoughts on what this means:

  1. Obviously the Power PC chip has reached some limit to its evolution. Never mind the comments that “A few more bucks could have solved the problem,” it must have been a pain in the butt for Apple to talk about how well-ventilated their CPUs are. I remember trying out a 17 inch G5 iMac and noticing how hot the CD got after burning a few program updates.
  2. The Mac has gone form 680X0 to Power PC, and from the “Classic” environment to a Unix-based environment. Jumping from a chip that’s evolving towards gaming to a well-established CPU-based chip is nothing undoable. Besides, it’s not like you’ve never seen an oversized file made for two formats before — especially if you’ve followed the format for more than ten years.
  3. I’m curious how much of a hit the graphics portion of the CPU would take — and whether the average Mac User would notice. Macs have always been a bit better on the graphics (Windows has always had a strange tackiness to it, as if that final refinement was somehow missing). How much of that missing refinement was Windows, and how much of that was limitations because of the Intel chip? Will you see a hit in the Graphics and Layout programs after the move? Note that all the gaming companies (even Microsoft) are using Power PC chips for their game boxes.
  4. It’s about Powerbooks. And mini-Macs. And iMacs (see above). And the Tablet Mac (I lust after tablet computers. That would probably be the one thing that would make me switch, that would be if I had to turn in my present computer, of course). And the cost savings from not needing to encase the chip in a liquid cooling mechanism. And not needing a ton of fans to cool things down, or feeling the need to brag about it.
  5. Don’t believe that they’ll use Intel chips in the low-end and Power PC chips at the high end, except during the transition period. To have two separate chips that require two different programs to run would not make sense. I more expect to see AMD chips in the high-end Macs — they’re compatible with Intel, and have a proven record with Gamers and others who require high-end chips for graphics and other demanding applications.

Finally, remember that it’s two years before the high-end Macs go “Intel Inside.” Add on at least two years of “fat” apps and dual releases, and you’ve got enough time to run with what you got. You can even plan the transition by buying a table top Mac now, and an Intel-based PowerBook (or iBook) in a couple years. Eventually, when the time comes to buy the tabletop Mac, you should have all the software ready for shifting to a Mactel computer.

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